“Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence. And when the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”
Hollywood legend Meryl Streep spoke those words at last week’s Golden Globe Awards, calling out president-elect Donald Trump without ever using his name.
In an interview with the “New York Times” the following morning, Trump said he was “not surprised” by the criticism from “liberal movie people.” Later, Trump, in a series of tweets, called Streep “one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood,” and “a Hillary flunky who lost big.”
Streep is not the only celebrity to get involved in politics recently. The most notable example is Trump himself, who has a granite star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and brags about his own celebrity status. Several public figures, including Bryan Cranston, Amy Schumer and Al Sharpton, openly and aggressively opposed Trump. While others, including Mark Wahlberg, said stars should stay out of politics entirely.
I think the content of Streep’s speech is what is most important here but is ultimately overlooked. Liberals’ knee-jerk reaction upon hearing anti-Trump rhetoric is to give a standing ovation, and conservatives automatically grumble about ‘millionaire Hollywood elitists.’
But what did Streep actually criticize about the upcoming commander-in-chief? She didn’t make fun of his appearance or cadence, as many do. She didn’t take shots at his stances on healthcare, foreign policy or his countless financial scandals.
Instead, she stood up for the weak.
She called out Trump for imitating and mocking reporter Serge Kovaleski, who suffers from a disease called arthrogryposis, “someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back […] This instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kinda gives permission for other people to do the same thing.”
Many Trump supporters are attempting to debunk this narrative, saying Trump was mocking Kovaleski himself, not his physical ailment. This is evidenced, apparently, by the facts that arthrogryposis does not cause spasms, and that Trump used the same gesture to mock Ted Cruz.
The leading article defending Trump on this issue uses this as a punch line: “Thus, if Trump truly wanted to mock Kovaleski’s disability, he would have had to stand perfectly still with a flexed right hand and not flail his arms.”
Is the bar honestly that low? We’re supposed to be okay with the idea that the soon-to-be-president was insulting a member of the press?
I am tired of being relieved when Trump has gone a single day without offending someone. The president of the United States is supposed to be a role model, not a line of best fit.
As Streep said, these Trump apologists are allowing others to follow in a bully’s footsteps. She turned the spotlight on Trump’s absurdity, yes, but she also pointed to how his leadership is signaling an era of harassment and victimization.
Streep had a captive audience of millions of viewers and she said what she thought was right. She did what every elected official should do: stand up for fairness.